When I was a child, I pretty much always had my nose stuck in a book. I carried a book with me everywhere I went. I read at the dinner table, in the car, anywhere. I even read during church, sometimes straight through my father’s sermons (definitely not some of my better moments…so sorry, Dad). One of my favorite series to read was The Boxcar Children. In a nutshell, for those unfamiliar with the books, The Boxcar Children follows 4 orphaned siblings who take shelter in an old boxcar, live independently (until they find their grandfather), and solve mysteries.
For a time, I was pretty obsessed The Boxcar Children, to the point that I set up a “boxcar” of sorts for myself under the dining room table furnished with donated pots, pans, dishes, and cutlery from my Momma. I loved the idea that the kids were so independent – cooking from foraged food, washing clothes in fresh water, etc. I, on the other hand, didn’t accomplish too much in my “boxcar” except for maybe eating the lunch my Momma prepared for me.
So yesterday, after a highly productive weekend of baking bread from scratch and making fresh Greek yogurt cream cheese, I was feeling pretty awesome about myself. It may have taken me roughly 17 years to do it, but I feel like I’ve finally achieved Boxcar status. Now, I just need to make Greek yogurt from scratch versus buying it to take it to the next level.
I’d also like to shout out to my sister for helping make my Boxcar dreams become a reality – she bought me this amazing cheese maker for my birthday. It’s super great because I don’t have to worry about having cheesecloth on hand and it keeps the whole process neat and tidy. Thank you!
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For the Dutch Oven Whole Wheat Bread
4 cups whole wheat flour
12 ounces water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
Coarse sea salt
For the Greek Yogurt Cream Cheese
8 oz Greek yogurt
Cheesecloth or strainer
For the Dutch Oven Whole Wheat Bread – adapted from Michael Ruhlman
Mix the flour, water, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Keep mixing until the dough is smooth. This can take about 20 minutes or so, and your arms will want to fall off. Using a large mixer for 5-10 minutes is preferable! When the dough is smooth and has an elastic stretch to it, it is ready to go.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 4-24 hours. It should double in size.
Next, place the dough out onto a work surface and knead it to release the gas and redistribute the yeast. Then, shape the dough into a tight ball and let it rest for another 10 minutes or so.
Coat the bottom and sides of a large Dutch oven with vegetable oil. Let the dough sit again while you preheat the oven to 450°F. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and sprinkle sea salt on top of the dough. Score the bread with a sharp knight, in the shape of an X. This helps the dough expand freely. Then, cover the pot and place it in the oven.
Bake the bread for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 375°F, and remove the lid from the Dutch oven. Continue baking for another 30 minutes or so. The bread will be browned with a nice crust.
Remove from the oven, and allow the bread to rest on a rack for at least 30 minutes while the interior finishes cooking.
For the Greek Yogurt Cream Cheese
Place the Greek yogurt in a strainer or on cheesecloth and place over a container or bowl. Cover/seal and allow the yogurt to strain for 24 hours. The resulting texture will be creamy and the taste will be slightly tangier than regular cream cheese.
It will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for about a week. Greek yogurt is a great substitute to regular cream cheese because of it being high in gut beneficial bacteria. Another plus is its creamy consistency without the excess fat!